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Eye melanoma is a type of eye cancer that develops in the cells producing melanin – the pigment that gives skin and iris of the eye their color. The disease most often affects one of the eyes.
Eye melanoma is a relatively rare form of cancer that most often develops in the part of the eye that can not be seen looking in the mirror. It is a health problem tough to detect because it usually does not show any early symptoms until it begins to be a serious issue. Treatment of eye melanoma at an early stage may not affect vision, but the inexorable progression of the disease often is associated with loss of vision.
Symptoms of eye melanoma
Eye melanoma mostly do not show any specific symptoms, by which it can be a long time unnoticed, but when you experience these symptoms, you should immediately go to the doctor:
- growing, dark spots or spot in the vicinity of the iris of the eye,
- the impression of flickering lights with closed eyes,
- the change in shape of the pupil of the eye, irregularities in appearance,
- weak or blurred vision in one eye,
- loss of peripheral vision,
- the appearance of flashes and smudges in vision.
Sudden changes in visual clarity and any distressing symptoms should not be underestimated, so it is crucial to consult your physician if they occur.
Causes of eye melanoma
It is not entirely clear what may be the cause of the appearance of eye melanoma. Doctors say that melanoma of the eye may occur due to an error in the developing healthy cells of DNA. DNA errors occur when the cells grow and multiply out of control, creating mutations. Accumulated in the eye of the mutant cells, in turn, contribute to the formation of melanomas.
Eye melanoma most often develops in the nerve cells in the vascular layer of the eye between the retina, a thin layer of tissue that connects the posterior wall of the sclera. It may also appear in the anterior part of the eye – iris or gall bladder. Less frequently, melanoma also appears on the front of the eye conjunctiva.
- individuals with light-colored eyes – this disease mainly affects people with eye color blue and green,
- people with fair skin complexion, eye melanoma most often refers to a population of white people,
- older people – the risk of melanoma increases with age,
- individuals suffering from some hereditary skin disorders,
- abnormalities in people with pigmentation of the skin of the eyelids and the adjacent tissues, and tissues of the mouth,
- individuals who have been exposed to ultraviolet light (UV) in excess.
The appearance of eye melanoma can carry numerous complications such as:
- an increase in pressure in the eye – causing glaucoma, which connects to the pain, redness, and blurry vision.
- loss of vision – especially in a situation where we have to deal with large melanoma, which can cause retinal detachment and loss of vision; for smaller melanomas, vision loss can occur when they are located in strategic parts of the eye responsible for vision,
- melanoma outside the eyes – melanoma belongs to malignant types of cancer, hence its metastases may even appear on distant parts of the body such as the liver, lungs or bones.
Diagnosis and treatment of eye melanoma
Diagnosing of melanoma of the eye starts thorough eye examination, during which the physician seeks to enlarged blood vessels, as it may indicate tumors inside the eye. Subsequently, more definitive studies are conducted including biomarker research, eye ultrasound, angiogram, biopsy, and the like.
Your doctor may also recommend additional tests and procedures to determine whether you are dealing with metastases to other parts of the body. Then are carried out, among others, some detailed blood tests, chest x-ray, computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or abdominal ultrasound.
The options for treating eye melanoma depend on the location and size of the tumor as well as on the patient’s general condition. Smaller and early melanoma found in the initial stages may not require any special treatment, but when it begin to grow, it should be carefully observed and treated.
Among treatment methods, surgical procedures should be distinguished depending on the type and location of the tumor (removing the melanoma, removing the whole eyeball). Another treatment is radiotherapy – with small and medium tumors, laser treatment – they can be combined with radiation and other treatments like cryotherapy (less popular).